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Winning the Federal Fight

The Center for Sportfishing Policy needs more support to ensure that recreational fishing voices are heard in Washington
A number of organizations do the important, behind-the-scenes work to help keep America’s fisherires sustainable, but there are other ways to help.

A number of organizations do the important, behind-the-scenes work to help keep America’s fisherires sustainable, but there are other ways to help.

We all lead busy lives. After our daily work, we take care of our families, maintain our households and try to be active in our communities, among other things that keep us out of the relaxation zone. So when it comes to fishing, of course we only want to think about one thing: fishing.

But the truth is, there’s more to those sunny days than the rod in your hand and line in the water. Humming quietly in the background is a system of laws and regulations meant to keep America’s marine resources sustainable. That system is run by a large, complex bureaucracy with many stakeholders constantly vying for a piece of the pie.

There are many opportunities for stakeholders to participate in the public process of regulating our shared public resources. But let’s face it: Doing so isn’t as fun as being on the water. It might be hard to believe, but America’s 9.2 million saltwater anglers are largely outnumbered when it comes to influencing the politics of fish at the federal level.

Commercial fishermen have monetary reasons to par­ticipate, and they always do. Environmentalists have ideological reasons to participate, and many have deep pockets, making them powerful influencers. What about recreational anglers? America’s recreational anglers and boaters fund state resource agencies and conservation programs to the tune of about $1.7 billion annually, but when it comes to the murky waters of federal fisheries policy, many anglers rely on national advocacy organizations to step up to the microphone for them.

The question is: Are you and your business actively participating in the organizations working on your behalf?

Fifteen years ago, many recreational fishing and boating leaders saw the battleground for several fisheries policy issues shifting from the state level to Washington, D.C. They came together and formed the Center for Sportfishing Policy to be the political arm of America’s marine conservation movement at the federal level.

Today, CSP brings leading advocates for recreational fishing and boating under a single umbrella to promote good stewardship of our nation’s marine resources, with the broad ability to pursue a more direct political strategy. The organization’s mission is to maximize opportunity for saltwater anglers by engaging stakeholders to speak with one voice to shape federal fisheries policy.

Supporters of CSP ensure that the interests of anglers in marine resources management are not lost in the noise of our nation’s busy capital. Thoughtful policy analysis and elective politics are important to advocacy efforts at the federal level. As the saying goes, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. CSP keeps anglers’ interests at the table.

Some noteworthy successes include conserving redfish and striped bass populations in federal waters, with executive orders signed by President Bush that established redfish and striped bass as federal gamefish and protected recreational fishing on all federal lands and waters; redirecting the Obama White House on its National Ocean Policy away from protectionism and toward responsible uses of our ocean resources; protecting billfish with the Billfish Conservation Act, a major victory for billfish conservation that closed the U.S. market in every state but Hawaii for marlin, sailfish and spearfish, and established a greater leadership role for the United States in the international protection of billfish; fighting to protect the East Florida Coast Pelagic Longline Closed Area, including advocating for the denial of an exempted fishing permit that would have allowed destructive longline gear back into the conservation zone; and spearheading the passage of the Modern Fish Act, which included landmark, sportfishing-focused reforms to our nation’s primary law governing fisheries in federal waters.

Today, we continue to push for enforcement of the Modern Fish Act by NOAA Fisheries, Congress and regional fishery management councils. We also publicly track progress via the Modern Fish Act Progress Report.

There’s still much to accomplish, but we can’t do it alone. We need passionate recreational fishing and boating industry leaders to help us promote sound fisheries policies that foster healthy public marine resources and access for all Americans.

I hope you’ll consider joining us at the Center for Sportfishing Policy. Through CSP, recreational anglers have a seat at the table with federal fisheries policy-makers. 

Tommy Hancock is founder, president and CEO of Sportsman Boats in Summerville, S.C.

Tommy Hancock is founder, president and CEO of Sportsman Boats in Summerville, S.C.

This article was originally published in the August 2022 issue.



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